Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Everyday Oprah Winfrey

Through the years I have been moved and inspired by Oprah Winfrey's personal journey, but her work as a philanthropist has been most inspiring. Watching the reactions of the people who have been blessed by her giving have been some of the best hours that I have spent watching television. With that said, I think it is very easy to look at Oprah's efforts and think...I wish I could help people in the manner in which she helps. I realize that we can all help in the manner in which Oprah does and that I know several "everyday" Oprah Winfrey's.

Yesterday I attended the first musical production, Annie Jr., that was put on by the Sowing Performing Arts Studio, Inc. ( Under the direction of Nicole Jones a Morgan State Univ. graduate, I watched a group of African-American children ranging from the ages of 5-16 deliver an excellent performance of a timeless musical. As I sat and watched the production, I could not stop smiling.

I met Nicole through a mutual friend and at the time we were both in the developmental stages of our non-profits. We would chat/email here and there checking on the status of the other, brainstorm on how to support the other, supported fund-raisers and lent an encouraging word when the opportunity permitted.

At the conclusion of the production I don't think it was a dry eye in the venue as Nicole shared her journey to that moment. She spoke about the fear that plagues us, the desire to be gifted to do something but not knowing where to start and disappointment when things don't quite go as we planned.

As I looked around at the students, volunteers, parents and guests I pondered on a few thoughts. Oprah Winfrey is a great African American philanthropist that the world watches, but I have "everyday" Oprah's that I see daily. I realized that Oprah gives and donates based on what her resources and voice allows. Nicole Jones gives and donates to children based on what her resources and voice allows and that is what matters.

Whether Oprah is opening a school for girls in South Africa or Nicole Jones is founding a non-profit for inner city youth in Atlanta to be exposed to the arts...if we all just used our gifts, talents, resources and voice to help someone in need then we become not just "everyday" Oprah's but everyday heroes.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Childhood Dreams Becoming Reality

Last week was truly a moment in history. Regardless of any person's political affiliation Barak Obama's official nomination as the Democratic party's Presidential nominee was a defining moment for America and the rest of the world.

As I watched all of the various speeches during the Democratic National Convention that led up to Senator Obama's acceptance speech, I pondered on those childhood memories of encouragement and esteem building. I can recall my mother, teachers and family members always reminding me as a child that I could be "anything". I could be a lawyer, a doctor, the first black "female" Supreme Court Justice and even the first black President.

I don't know that it's possible for me to express how overwhelming it was to watch Michelle Obama and Senator Obama deliver those speeches. I had moments when I laughed, cried, smiled and just sat in amazement as I marveled at how this childhood dream was manifesting into a reality right in front of my eyes.

I felt a sense of pride and belief as I watched Michelle's speech with my mother. In that moment I looked at my mother and realized that what I once considered to be her childhood rhetoric towards me was a childhood dream becoming a potential reality for so many people. I was Michelle Obama, my mother was Michelle Obama and every other African American woman that we know. The moment was simply beautiful.

I don't know that I believed I could be the first "Black President" when that message was spoken to me as a child. While watching Senator Obama's speech I became teary eyed as I processed that fact that this childhood dream that someone spoke into my life was now a possibility in arms reach. That my friends was an awesome moment.

As a African American woman it is my responsibility to encourage my students and the youth I meet to dream VERY VERY big. Twenty years from now when we read of Senator Obama's historic moment in the history books, I can't wait to tell someone my memories of living in that moment. My hope is that when I tell youth that they can be "anything" that they remember my words when that childhood dream becomes a reality for them.